Space travel never really captured my fancy. The last time I gazed wondrously at the stars above was on a planetarium field-trip in middle-school. Even then, the “Dark Side of the Moon” musical accompaniment was the biggest draw.
That all changed late last month when Amazon founder Jeff Bezos flew to the edge of space. More to the point, immediately upon reentering earth’s atmosphere, he commenced dishing out hundreds of millions of dollars to veritable strangers, like a well-heeled sailor on shore leave.
This philanthropy, made by Mr. Bezos with no strings attached, is part of his new “Courage and Civility Award” initiative. The gifts were made in recognition of two important civic virtues in short supply today. The generosity behind $100 million going to each of CNN contributor Van Jones and humanitarian chef José Andrés – enough cheddar to choke a goat - got my attention.
How much attention? Enough that I’m prepared to admit I was wrong – dead wrong - about space travel, which I now see is fascinating stuff. Can we agree that putting myself out there and owning this takes profound courage, the kind worthy of remuneration? I hope so. But it’s not the only uncommon valor I’ve displayed this summer. Not by a long shot. Why, I’ve been courageous to the moon and back!
Just last week, I took the kitchen trash out to the garbage can when nobody in my family stepped up after dinner. I did this with full knowledge that the neighborhood raccoon, who lives to terrify me, was almost certainly lying in wait under the lid. What drove me? Let’s just say not every hero wears a cape. Speaking of daring, what’s got two thumbs and regularly retrieves his kids’ Nerf football from the snakiest part of his yard? This guy.
But wait, there’s more: My courage of late is matched only by my civility. Last week at the dentist, I didn’t complain when “Hello It’s Me”, Todd Rundgren’s cloying and maudlin ballad, played in the waiting room. Perhaps a patient needed additional sedation, I reasoned, and just went to my happy place.
Later on, I held my tongue when my wife continued insisting she’d watched steamy, ahem, streaming drama “Outlander” for the stories, not eye-candy protagonist Jamie Fraser. ‘Twas more than a wee bit of nonsense from the fair lass, but I gamely played along rather than be rude.
When a call interrupted dinner with an unsolicited offer to extend my automobile’s warranty, I was no less than courtly. I even gave the cold-caller my good friend Greg’s number, describing him as “a huge car-guy with money burning a hole in his pocket.”
Speaking of money, let me be clear. I wouldn’t say no to the Courage and Civility Award’s going rate of nine figures, but I’d say yes to substantially less. To do otherwise would be uncivil, which I am not. You might say being uncivil is the only thing I lack the courage to be.
If someone asked me to opine in five words on where the next Courage and Civility Award should go, I’d civilly say “thank you for considering me.” If permitted two additional words, I’d add “Venmo me” at the end. Shows courage.
MIke Kerrigan is an attorney in Charlotte